Volunteer Weather Observers - AP Wire Story

AP US & World Tuesday, July 14, 1998  5:02:00 PM

Copyright 1998 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. The information 
contained in this news report may not be published, broadcast or otherwise 
distributed without the prior written authority of the Associated Press.

 Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Every day thousands of volunteers across the nation 
collect weather observations vital for forecasting, flood control and 
many other uses. A study says these observers should be provided automated 
equipment, communications links and computers.

"The current Co-op Network cannot be sustained at present funding levels," 
the National Research Council said in a report released Tuesday. 
"Modernization will require substantial new funds."

The government spends about $10 million a year on the network of 11,866 
stations of various types, including about 5,000 that
collect detailed climate data. The network of volunteer observers has been 
collecting data since 1890, with some stations reporting by phone and others 
mailing in their findings. Most continue to use traditional instruments 
to collect such information as temperature, rain and snowfall, humidity and 
wind speed and direction.  The information is used in weather 
forecasting, management of water resources and forecasting of crop yields, 
and local governments and businesses use it in making economic decisions.

"Automating data communications between cooperative sites and local National 
Weather Service offices should be the first step in automating the 
cooperative observer sites," and the goal should be daily reports from all 
stations, the report said.  Wherever possible, the council said, the 
stations should be provided with personal computers for logging data.  It 
called for gradual introduction of automated weather sensing instruments, 
but stressed that automated instruments need thorough testing alongside 
traditional instruments at each site.

Phil Clark, who manages the network for the National Weather Service, said 
his agency has a modernization plan but has been unable to obtain funding for 
it.   He estimated it would cost $20 million to redo the network over a period 
of five to six years. Besides improving the collection of data, providing 
better equipment would help retain current volunteers and make it easier
to recruit new ones when needed, Clark said. The network of volunteers is 
"the best bargain we've got," Clark said. Some people have been collecting 
weather data for 70 to 75 years, he said, and some observing sites haven't 
moved in over a century. That's the type of climate information that is most 
valuable in studying such long-term trends as global warming.

The study was funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 
which oversees the volunteer network. Among the recommendations was that NOAA 
set up an interagency council to provide support for the network and that its 
management be tightened. The Weather Service oversees the volunteers now, 
forwarding the data to the National Climatic Data Center for use by others. 
Both agencies are part of NOAA. 


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URL: http://climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/coop_ap.html
Last modified: July 21, 1998